A good barbell is an indispensable piece of home gym equipment for anyone who is serious about lifting. It’s a versatile tool with which you can perform any of an extraordinarily wide range of exercises. Whether you’re just getting into weightlifting or are an old pro, a strong and reliable barbell is very useful to have.
Since the market is so diverse and profuse with choices, diving straight into making a choice with no prior background knowledge on exactly what kinds of features you should be hunting for can be bewildering and overwhelming.
That’s why we’d like to help you find your bearings in this area by discussing 10 of the best and most affordable barbells you’re likely to find on the market these days.
1. CAP Barbell Olympic Bar Blue Flame — Best Powerlifting Bar
It’s got a bushing rotation system and great sleeves to boot. With an impressive tensile strength of 110,000 PSI, it’s unquestionably meant for heavy-duty lifters.
If power lifting is your thing, this barbell is a dream come true. For all of the excellent features it offers, it still finds a way not to be too expensive.
2. Rep Sabre Olympic Bar — Best Knurling on a Powerlifting Bar
This barbell comes in two forms: a 44-pound version intended for men, and a 33-pound version intended for women. With its 1000-pound maximum weight capacity, this is a barbell intended for powerlifting. Like most powerlifting bars, it’s got bushing and fairly smooth sleeve rotation.
Furthermore, it’s got medium-depth knurling to ensure a balance between grip and comfort, and zinc coating to resist and counteract rusting.
It’s got a tensile strength of about 330 pounds, so it will stay totally rigid until you reach weights at that level or above.
3. Synergee Regional Olympic — Most Versatile Olympic Barbell
This barbell’s impressive 1,500-pound maximum weight bearing capacity might lead you to think that it is built exclusively for heavy-duty powerlifting, but it’s just as serviceable for CrossFit training, or for any kind of lifting where the emphasis isn’t necessarily on lifting the greatest amount of weight possible.
It’s got a 13-inch loadable sleeve with 10 bearings making up the rotation system, as well as an almost unbelievable tensile strength of 190,000 PSI.
This combination of features shows that it has the great load-bearing capacity of a powerlifting bar and also the rotation system of a CrossFit bar. The bar also comes in a 44-pound version for men and a 33-pound version for women.
4. XMark Voodoo Commercial 7′ Olympic Bar — Best Non-Corroding Powerlifting Barbell
like a 1,500-pound maximum load-bearing capacity, a tensile strength of 185,000 PSI, and special grooves on the sleeves designed to keep especially heavy plates from slipping off — but what makes it truly unique is its ability to last a long time and withstand corrosion.
Its black manganese phosphate shaft is made and coated with one of the best anti-corrosive materials available, so this barbell will be sure to last and last.
5. CAP Barbell Olympic Bar Original — Best Barbell for Beginners
Similar in many ways to the Blue Flame CAP barbell that we considered above, this model also has a tensile strength of 110,000 PSI, though only has a maximum weight-bearing capability of 1,000 pounds.
Despite not being able to bear as much weight as some of the barbells designed specifically for powerlifting, this barbell is nevertheless highly reliable and can bear enough weight to allow you to perform virtually any kind of workout you can dream of.
It can carry 2-inch Olympic plates and has bushings as part of its rotation system.
6. XMark Lumberjack 7′ Olympic Bar — Best CrossFit Workout Barbell
Though this barbell only has a maximum weight-bearing capacity of 700 pounds — which is significantly less than that of your typical powerlifting barbell — it’s excellent for lower-weight and high-rep exercises that can still jet you jacked.
Chrome-plated sleeves and a black manganese phosphate shaft keeps the bar from rusting and the brass bushing combines with those aforementioned features to give it superb longevity. The knurling is decent as well.
7. Body-Solid 7 Foot Olympic Barbell — Best Rust-Resistant CrossFit Barbell
This 44-pound, 7-foot long, 30-millimeter thick barbell with 15.5-inch long collars and a 51-inch long central grip bar to hold onto as you lift has a 600-pound maximum weight-bearing capability that makes it perfect not only for CrossFit training, but for reasonably intense powerlifting as well.
The knurled grips will be extremely useful as you jack up the weight and the bar won’t rust. Just don’t expect to use this bar to set any powerlifting records.
8. Yaheetech Olympic 7 feet Weight Bar — Best Inexpensive CrossFit Barbell
Since it can only bear up to 330 pounds of total weight, it’s crucial that you not use this bar for powerlifting or for any other kind of serious or heavy-duty lift.
It’s simply not meant for that task. Since it has no coating, it’s also prone to rust if you don’t take proper care of it.
9. CAP Barbell Classic 7-Foot Olympic Bar — Decent Cheap Olympic Barbell
Despite this, we don’t recommend using it for any kind of serious powerlifting. It’s got a tensile strength of 63,800 PSI — considerably less than most of the other barbells we have been discussing here.
Despite this, it has decent knurls, and for the price, the rolled steel of which it’s made is reasonably strong.
10. Weider Olympic Bar with 2 Collars Chrome Barbell — Least Expensive Olympic Barbell
As it can only handle up to 350 pounds of weight, it’s absolutely not suitable for stronger or more experienced weightlifters.
The bar comes with two Olympic-sized clip collars to keep the plates that you put on it in place.
Best Olympic Barbell – Buyer’s Guide
You’ve now seen a selection of 10 excellent Olympic-grade barbells, but don’t rush out to set up your home gym and start lifting just yet. Beyond knowing about a few specific products, it also pays to have some general knowledge of how to distinguish a good barbell from a shoddy one and how barbells differ with respect to their suitability for different lifting styles.
Ironing out rough patches in your knowledge in this way will only make you a more confident shopper overall, so that you may be completely confident in your ability to find what you need.
Why it’s Important to be Aware of the Characteristics of Different Barbells and to Choose the Right One
Let’s start with the most general question of all. Why is it so important to know what distinguishes a good barbell from a bad one? What are some of the possible consequences of unknowingly choosing a bad one?
As we’ll show in more detail below, different barbells are tailored to people with different lifting styles. They are meant to handle different levels of weight, have different levels of knurling (which may be either uncomfortable, insufficient or just right, depending on the kind of person you are), or have different tensile or yield strengths. You might buy a certain barbell, load it up with more weight than it can bear and inadvertently end up irreversibly bending and damaging it.
Since you obviously wouldn’t want anything like that to happen, it’s important to be aware of the characteristic that we’re about to discuss.
The Most Important Characteristics of a Barbell
There are six major physical characteristics of every barbell that you will have to evaluate before you can judge its quality. These are:
- Steel Quality: Since your barbell is going to be made primarily, if not exclusively, of steel, high-quality steel is crucial to every good barbell. The two most important properties to look at when examining the strength of a steel barbell are its tensile strength and its yield strength. Tensile strength is a material’s ability to resist bending or breaking when put under pressure, and yield strength — usually measured in pounder per square inch (PSI) — is the amount of stress that a material can withstand before it begins to deform in irreversible ways.
- Finish or Coating: When evaluating a given barbell’s steel quality, there’s more to consider than merely the steel’s raw strength. In addition to raw strength, the coating on a steel barbell is also an indicator of its quality, as coating is meant to prevent the steel from rusting. Chrome, black zinc and cerakote are three common types of coatings, although a truly high-quality stainless steel bar will be rust-resistant all on its own. Such stainless steel bars will also usually feel comfortable and natural to lift, so if the cost is not prohibitive, aim for the best quality uncoated stainless steel bars that you can find.
- Spin and Sleeves: The sleeves on a barbell bar, otherwise known as its spin system, are designed to spin the bar when dropped, and therefore to redistribute force in certain ways and minimize any damage that may be done. There are two basic kinds of spin systems: bushings and bearings. If you expect to be dropping the bar often (after lifting exceptionally heavy weights, for instance), opt for a bearing system. Bars with bearing systems spin more easily and therefore can better withstand being dropped. However, they also tend to be more expensive and not as generally resistant to ordinary wear-and-tear as barbells with bushing rotation systems are. Barbells with bushings are therefore better for beginners. The right choice for you will depend on what you plan to be doing with your barbell. It will be up to you to determine how best to negotiate this trade-off.
- Bar Diameter: The most common thickness of the best-designed Olympic barbells is 28 millimeters. Some bars meant specifically for powerlifting may be 30 millimeters thick in order to make them more rigid, but unless you are a power lifter 28 millimeters will be the most common diameter that you see as you shop around.
- Whip: This property refers to a bar’s ability to bend under weight and then to snap back into form after being bent. Various other properties shaft diameter and steel type go into determining a bar’s whip. Olympic weightlifters seeking to lift extremely high weights will usually desire some amount of whip in their bars, but in general, the ideal barbell should be exceptionally stiff.
- Knurling: Knurling is a manufacturing process that weaves criss-crossed lines, ridges or other patterns into some kind of material. For barbells, some knurling is crucial because that is what allows lifters to confidently grip the bar. Without any knurling, a smooth steel bar could easily slip out of a lifter’s hands as they get sweaty and cause untold damage or injury. Large an aggressive knurling pay prevent slippage, but it can poke at and hurt your hands, causing progressively greater discomfort as their weight you lift grows greater. For that reason, a bar with a moderate amount of knurling is usually best.
Different Bars and Different Lifting Styles
Olympic barbells can be broken up into a few categories based on what sorts of lifting they are best designed for. It’s important to be aware of these categories because it will be impossible to choose the right bar for you if you don’t know which bars are meant for what.
The two main divisions to consider involve high weights, slow movements and low numbers of reps on the one hand, and lower weights, fast movements and large amounts of reps on the other. The broad types of Olympic barbells and their associated lifting styles, therefore, are:
- Power Lifting Bars: Power lifters tend to perform slow exercises at very high weight levels, like squats, dead lifts and bench presses. If this is what you intend to do, you’ll need a very strong, stiff bar. A great amount of spin will not be necessary since you won’t be dropping the bar often. Bushings and minimal amounts of whip are probably what you’ll want. You’ll also probably need at least a decent amount of knurling since a bar loaded with gargantuan weights is not something you’d want to risk having slip out of your grasp.
- CrossFit Bars: CrossFit barbell exercises tend to involve lower weights, but faster, more sudden and jerkier movements. Because of the high pace and sudden movements of a CrossFit routine, you’ll find yourself throwing the bar to the ground quite often. Having a barbell with bearings and rubber bumpers is a good idea if you plan to use it for CrossFit.
That wraps up what we have to say about Olympic barbells and how to find the best one for you and your particular workout needs. Since we all know that you’re eager to start lifting, we’ve sought only to present you with a selection of barbells that run the gamut of capability and to arm you with the necessary knowledge to distinguish a quality barbell from a shoddy one, and to find the barbell that suits you best. By all means, now that you’re ready, get out there and start lifting!